Reputation, reputation, reputation, Oh! I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation lags, my reputation!
-- William Shakespeare in Othello.

Like Rome was not built in a day, so are corporate reputations not built in a day. But they can be destroyed in one, as Union Carbide discovered at Bhopal on 3rd December 1984. Also once it is built it is even more difficult to maintain it – shinning and untarnished.

Corporate image is a subject about which many people hold firm views, but in truth know surprisingly little. Some see it as a menace. As merely an expensive flag waving exercise. Others regard it as a myth, arguing that publicity cannot hope to change perceived impressions and attitudes in people’s minds. And at the other extreme are those who believe it is a magic formula and an instant panacea for every corporate situation.

You have to work in building corporate reputation and image. Good corporate image in my view can be built if you treat it like the 5th “P” of marketing. “P” standing for “performance.” Corporate image is built through more than one means – advertising, public relations and today community relations, beside profit. You need to be at your professional best. Corporate image must happen by design and not by default. The key lies in engineering the change of image with these professional activities..

Our corporate success lies in our corporate genes. A corporate image survey among twenty companies in the UK indicated that on the favourability and familiarity factors of a company, if you cannot distinguish your brands from your competition, you can use the “halo” of the company image to strengthen your position. The overall umbrella image makes it easier to establish them in the minds of the consumers. Because they share a common inheritance, they reinforce one another at the parent. The advantage of the parent company branding is greatest of all in the services and durables industry.

Corporate images today are largely formed as a result of the CEO and his leadership, the Vision of the company, and the formal company policies and practices. All three are performance based. This then results in the corporate culture, which when communicated externally and internally leads to corporate reputation and image.

Corporate image is what enables companies like Hindustan Lever, Bajaj Auto, and the like, to keep their leadership position in the marketplace. This image is a representation in the minds of the stakeholders. It is also equally a reality. Image management can be successful only when corporate performance is congruent with its personality.

Corporate events and milestones also help build corporate image. The impression the company creates, when planned effectively and efficiently, in inevitably affects the people who do business with it, or invest in it, or work in it. It makes the image tangible and credible. At the national level, for instance, Manmohan Singh’s milestone reforms and liberalization of the Indian economy is an example of this fact. The reforms process has changed India’s image and made it an attractive investment for other countries and multinational companies of the world.

 Corporate image is the net result of the interaction of all experiences, impressions, beliefs, feelings and knowledge that people have about the company. No company today can afford to ignore its image and image building. This image would generally be a positive one, but would also take into consideration the negatives, if any, within it. A company that takes its corporate image seriously is far less likely to project conflicting images. For this type of a company, image is a result of a comprehensive intellectual and physical exercise (plan). It has to take into consideration the soft and the hard aspects of its performance – its policies, practices, and people.

 Companies are known by the image they themselves build and communicate to the stakeholders outside and internally to the employees. And that too based on genuine accomplishments in areas. It can be a powerful strategic tool, instead of a one time opportunity or a crisis related activity. An operational policy – short-term and long-term.

 It is said, changing a personality and image to fit a new desirable image requires a change of heart to match the change of the face. At the corporate level, a positive approach and planned actions will usually win the day for your company.